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Prince v. Monroe County

October 6, 2009

DANIEL PRINCE PLAINTIFF,
v.
MONROE COUNTY, MONROE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, AND ROBIN BROWN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Daniel Prince, ("Prince") a Sheriff's Deputy employed by the defendant Monroe County Sheriff's Department, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the New York State Human Rights Law claiming that the defendants retaliated against him for exercising his right to freedom of speech. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that the defendants retaliated against him for complaining of hostile and dangerous working conditions allegedly created by defendant Robin Brown, a Lieutenant who, at the relevant times, supervised the plaintiff.

Defendants move to dismiss the Complaint on grounds that plaintiff has failed to state a cause of action for the violation of his right to be free from retaliation for exercising his rights under the First Amendment to the rights. The defendants claim that plaintiff has failed to establish that the speech he engaged in was protected by the First Amendment.

For the reasons set forth below, I grant the defendants' motions to dismiss, and dismiss plaintiff's Complaint with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are set forth in plaintiff's Complaint. Plaintiff Daniel Prince is a Deputy in the Monroe County Sheriff's Department (the "Sheriff's Department" or "Department"). Prince, who has worked for the Sheriff's Department for over 17 years, was, at the time the Complaint in this case was filed, assigned to the Monroe County Jail located in Henrietta, New York.

In 2006, defendant Robin Brown, a Sergeant in the Sheriff's Department, was transferred to the Henrietta jail, and became Prince's supervisor. In April 2006, Brown called Prince into his office to reprimand and counsel Prince regarding use of sick time. The counseling related to an incident in which Prince called in sick to work following a scheduled day off. According to the Complaint, Brown thought that Prince's actions "looked bad." Though Brown admitted that Prince had accrued sufficient time to take sick leave, and Prince indicated that he had never called in sick following a scheduled day off in his career, Brown placed a note in plaintiff's file regarding the incident, and other instances in which Prince allegedly had a deputy cover part of a shift for him without Brown's knowledge.

Two days after the incident, Prince went to the Sergeant's office to review his file. According to Prince, Brown harassed him for doing this, and after some discussion, began yelling at Prince and mocking him in front of other supervisory personnel.

Plaintiff felt humiliated, and contacted his union representative, claiming that Brown had created a hostile and abusive working environment. An investigation into the matter was launched by the Sheriff's Department Internal Affairs Division, and several months later, Prince was informed that the investigation found that Brown had acted inappropriately with respect to his conduct towards the plaintiff, but that because Prince had not been denied a promotion or any other employment benefits, no action would be taken against Brown. Prince was not satisfied with the Department's investigation, and contacted a member of Department's Human Resources office. Prince then met with the Undersheriff, who agreed to reopen the investigation into Brown's conduct. According to Prince, Brown continued to engage in harassing and demeaning conduct towards him.

In January, 2007, Brown accused Prince of using six sick days in the last six months, and ordered Prince to sign an "early warning system" document acknowledging that fact. Prince signed the document, but later began to question whether he had used six or only five days within the last six months. He asked Brown to look into the matter, and although Brown agreed to, he allegedly did not. Thereafter, Brown allegedly continued to verbally harass Prince by calling him a "faggot" or a "pussy."

Approximately one week later, Prince was working with Sergeant Ciminelli, and plaintiff asked Ciminelli to check on his use of sick time in the last six months. Brown, who was also working that shift, allegedly heard about Prince's request, and sought out Prince, who was conducting a watch of prisoners. Brown was allegedly incensed at Prince's request for information regarding his use of sick time, and confronted Prince in front of several prisoners. Brown allegedly physically threatened Prince, and called him a "mother-fucker", "little bitch", "pussy ass bitch", "faggot", and "whining little faggot." Prince claims that Brown's verbal abuse incited the inmates, several of whom heard it, and many of the inmates began calling Prince names, and questioning his authority. Because Prince felt that his authority with the inmates had been compromised, he sought assistance from other Department personnel. A Lieutenant eventually arrived to escort Prince out of the building, and Prince was thereafter assigned to another location. At some point thereafter, Prince returned to the Henrietta Jail, and Brown was permanently transferred to the Downtown Monroe County Jail.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard for Motion to ...


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